Saturday, March 12, 2011
DELCO TIMES: Chester students leave YouthBuild
When the students of Chester YouthBuild, an alternative education program, learned they were being transferred to another program, they refused to sulk. Instead, they sought a solution — anything — that could prevent their program from closing.
That is a testament to the effectiveness of the program, said Donna Northern, YouthBuild director.
“You had a group of people advocating for their education,” Northern said. “These were the ones people thought didn’t care and even themselves probably talked about (how) it wasn’t that important to go to school. They didn’t see education as being paramount in their life, but now they’re out here saying, ‘We’re holding signs because this means something to us.’”
Chester Upland School District had little wiggle room in the situation. The state ordered the district to remove its 47 students from YouthBuild because the program was not on the state-approved list of Supplemental Educational Service providers. Thus, Chester Upland placed the students in its Ombudsman Program, an affiliated alternative education program on that list.
Friday was the students’ final day at YouthBuild, which mixes classroom learning with construction and job-skills training. For many, it came three months too soon.
“YouthBuild helped me stay motivated,” said Cierra Alston, a senior in her second year at Youthbuild. “They pushed me to be excellent. They make sure when you leave here all the work you do won’t be in vain.”
Alston, who earned CPR and first-aid certifications there, said she wishes the district would have notified students sooner. That way, Alston said, they could have played a greater role in the solution. Alston was among several students who voiced their concerns before council Wednesday. Their appearance sparked a discussion among council and Chester Upland School Board President Wanda Mann, who said she’d meet with Acting Superintendent Dr. Joyce Wells to see whether any other solution might be viable.
Chester Upland spokesman Joel Avery said Friday that the district determined it had taken its best option.
“At this time YouthBuild is still off of the state-approved list, which means the district unfortunately is unable to utilize their services,” Avery said. “When YouthBuild returns to the list, the district will be very happy to work with them again. The district cares a lot about its students and their feelings and just wishes to emphasize to everyone that this is just a matter of ... [ READ MORE ]